By: Michael Kabel


Ready for baby's first birthday party? How about the second?


Your child's first birthdays are some of the most memorable as years go by. There's a novelty and a true cause for joy in seeing your child go from baby to toddler to young person in just the span of a couple of years. And as the children around them grow, they'll be other reasons to celebrate, too.


The term "birthday party etiquette" seems to suggest a rigid code for guests and hosts to follow. But the guidelines presented below aren't meant to intimidate guests into proper behavior or to let the air out of what should be a good time. They're ways to make the party more enjoyable and less rife with problems for all the guests - including the little ones.


There's no such thing as "fashionably late."


It's one thing to arrive late at a party if you can't help it. It's another thing to do so on purpose. Children's birthday parties are different because the children themselves only have a limited time and amount of energy, so the party can't really drag on past a couple of hours. Arriving later than the requested time holds up the flow of the party and makes everything else stop when you arrive.


Bring a sensible gift the parents and child can enjoy.


The gift doesn't have to be expensive and it doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should make a certain amount of sense. That is, the perfect birthday gift for babies will be something that parents can appreciate as well as admire. A personalized keepsake makes a great present, as does diaper cakes and blankets for the younger babies. For toddlers and smaller children, keepsakes and durable learning toys for the nursery (like building blocks, an abacus or a stuffed animal) provide the kinds of gifts that help parents raise the child as well as entertain them.


Arrive having eaten.


This sounds almost childishly simple, doesn't it? But unless a complete meal is announced on the invitation, parents and kids alike should arrive at the party with full stomachs. This will prevent a party-hijacking need for feeding and let you and your baby both concentrate on the cake, ice cream, or other treats.


Expect some noise and plan accordingly.


Birthday parties are noisy places. If your child has trouble with noise or shies away from crowds, let the party hostess know before you arrive. It's probably okay if the baby comes ahead anyway, but one less crying baby is one less crying baby at a party. And speaking of which…


Don't hesitate to take the child outside during the celebration.


This rule applies more to toddlers than infants, of course. Parents need to be quick-responders when their child acts up or needs help with potty. Letting them alone thinking "it's a phase" or "they'll work it out" is fine for normal situations. Passive noninterference during someone else's celebration is just rude. So, get your child the help or attention they need when they need it, without delay.


Depart when it's time to go - if not sooner.


The party invitation will announce an end time. Parents should plan to have their kids out no later than that time. In fact, they can even leave a few minutes earlier, to help stagger everyone's departures.


Send a thank you note.


This one's self-explanatory. Writing thanks from you and your child is also a nice touch.